Laurie Lee’s Valladolid, 1935: ‘… a shut box, full of pious dust and preserved breath of its dead….’
What we saw, cycling in in 2019: A warm inviting city, busy with colours and daily business; a statue to the poet Zorilla. Cafes, families, buses, sensible and elegant architecture.
On an evening of ‘red stale dust’ Lee found little life. We arrived in a city gearing up for a grand fiesta (what Spanish town isn’t, ever?)
For Liam, Valladolid is especially important. We met friends of his here and this is the town that first started his love affair with the entire country. So, let’s hand over to El Super O for the rest of this blog….
When I finished 6th year at school in 1974 I bought a European railcard and took off with my pal Hugh Mallin (sadly now deceased) to go round France and Spain and visit the many pen pals I had at the time. Mary Drummond (now Byrtle), a Glasgow University student recently back from a year in Valladolid, gave us some contacts there in case we passed through. So we planned a three day trip … but stayed for nine! It was our first contact with non-tourist Spain, we loved everything about it – the people, the lifestyle, cold Spanish tortilla – and it impacted both our lives for ever. (And I would never have learned Spanish without Mary Drummond’s help either: cheers Mary!)
Two and a half years later I was driving overland in a Citroen Diane to spend my own year in Spain, in Guadalajara, not far from Madrid. I stopped en route in Valladolid and again had a great time, not least because I was enjoying the company of a girl from Coatbridge who had cadged a lift from me at the last minute. There was no romance involved – she kept putting me off, implying she had more than one boyfriend at the time – but something must have clicked because six years later we got married: cheers Anne!
Times move on, my children too have now learned Spanish, are travelling extensively and have benefited from the hospitality of others. Periodically they ask us to house someone who has helped them out and around a month ago Lucia, a wonderful young woman from Valladolid, came to stay for a while. So we end up meeting Lucia’s parents, Angel and Marta, who invited us for a brilliant meal with their friends Arturo and Rocio and Lucia’s sister, Marta. We had a terrific laugh and some serious discussion. We felt right at home in the company of people who could argue with each other vehemently, throw in friendly personal insults and come out the other end still laughing and the best of pals. Here’s a part of a discussion about Catalan independence, a hotly debated topic in Spain today: when Eddie and Chris struggle to get a word in, you know something is amiss!
So, unlike Laurie Lee, we had a ball in Valladolid. It was the feast of San Pedro Regalado, the city’s patron, people were in holiday spirits and the place was buzzing. Though it kept us awake at night, we loved how the main square was given over to free, public, musical performances, from opera and classical music to rock and roll. I leave you with a clip from the main square where, unusually, flamenco dancers are accompanied by an orchestra – or is it the other way round?